NYCHA leaders oppose Kathryn Garcia’s mayoral bid over lead paint crisis
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Tenant association presidents of six public housing complexes are asking voters not to rank Kathryn Garcia for mayor — arguing that she misled the public about the extent of the lead paint crisis when she served as City Hall’s interim NYCHA chairwoman.
“Kathryn Garcia failed our neighbors, families and friends when she had a chance to protect us from the dangers of lead paint poisoning,” the tenant presidents wrote in the new letter. “If you care about public housing and the health of our children, please do not vote for Kathryn Garcia.”
The letter was signed by six tenant leaders and is set to be made public during the last Democratic mayoral debate on Wednesday night.
They are Mary Andrews of Brooklyn’s Farragut Houses, Darold Burgess of Brooklyn’s Ingersoll Houses, Tony Edwards of Marble Hill Houses in The Bronx, Geraldine Parker of Stapleton Houses on Staten Island, Norma Saunders of Bronx River Houses and April Simpson of Queensbridge Houses in Queens.
One of the signatories confirmed to The Post he is backing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who holds a narrow lead in the June 22 primary.
“I just want to see Eric Adams as our new mayor because I know he can turn the city around. He can bring down the crime rate. He’s been to my development on numerous occasions. He knows all of our residents. He knows what our residents need,” Burgess said late Wednesday.
Burgess added that Garcia has not reached out to him since she jumped into the 2021 Democratic mayoral primary.
Burgess’s development and the nearby Farragut Houses are a key base of support for a top Adams surrogate, Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn).
Attempts to reach Andrews at the Farragut Houses were not successful.
Another of the tenant leader signatories, Saunders, declined to comment — or to even confirm she signed the letter, telling a Post reporter she was at work.
The letter comes amid Garcia’s dramatic rise in the polls from long-shot to the race’s top tier — and it misstates key portions of the history of the lead paint scandal, which badly tarnished Mayor Bill de Blasio’s second term.
The six leaders account for just a fraction of NYCHA’s 300-plus developments but the letter took the citywide tenant head, Danny Barber, by surprise.
“I don’t understand how they get to that decision,” he added. “Honestly, the whole lead scandal is bad.”
The six tenant leaders base their claims on a May 2019 letter from NYCHA’s federal monitor Bart Schwartz.
Schwartz, an ex-federal prosecutor, argued Garcia understated the number of children in NYCHA developments — potentially misleading the City Council — by not revealing officials were relying on disclosures provided by tenants to determine where children live and frequently visit instead of surveying each development.
He also said Garcia painted way too rosy a picture for the completion of lead tests in some 135,000 apartments, saying it would take at least two years beyond the 2020 deadline she offered the City Council during testimony on May 7, 2019.
Garcia fiercely disputed Schwartz’s arguments at the time — and reiterated the statement again Tuesday.
“This is another politically motivated attack by competitors who are seeing Garcia’s poll numbers continue to rise,” said Garcia spokeswoman Lindsay Green.
The six tenant leaders argue Schwartz’s letter shows Garcia “further endangered our children by misleading New Yorkers about the extent of our city’s lead paint crisis and failed to fix NYCHA’s lead paint problem.”
“We could not trust her then and we cannot trust her now. Please, do not vote for or rank Kathryn Garcia in this year’s Democratic primary election so that we can finally close this terrible chapter in NYCHA’s history and work to protect the next generation of children growing up in NYCHA from lead paint poisoning,” they wrote.
But the history of the lead paint crisis is far broader than portrayed in the letter.
The scandal exploded into view more than a year before Garcia came to NYCHA, in November 2017, when the Department of Investigation exposed that officials had at the agency had lied for years about conducting required lead checks. Then-NYCHA chairwoman Shola Olatoye resigned in disgrace.
A subsequent bombshell lawsuit from Manhattan federal prosecutors in 2018 revealed that NYCHA officials nixed the lead checks as part a systematic effort to conceal the crumbling conditions at the city’s then-326 public housing complexes.
City Hall settled the lawsuit in January 2019 and agreed to the installation of a federal monitor to oversee the agency’s reforms.
NYCHA’s then-interim chairman, Stanley Brezenoff, quit in the deal’s aftermath and Garcia was appointed on a temporary basis to fill the spot while City Hall conducted a national search for a new permanent boss.
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